Today we had fantastic weather while fishing our way up the coast. We found some good yellowtail ( most released ) to play with, along with some bass and other shallow water fish for lunch tomorrow. The clear weather highlighted the rugged Baja coast, making the scenery spectacular as we made our way to the North. We will be traveling home tomorrow and arrive at the dock at 0545 on Tuesday the 1st. We will depart again on Wednesday the 2nd with Captain Tim Ekstrom on the wheel for our next 10 day adventure.
Today we worked up all day on the outside for not very much action in nice weather. We pulled in to a shallow in the late afternoon and the yellowtail were biting. We played with them till the sun went down keeping some and releasing others. We will be working up looking for a bass lunch and a little bit of scenery tomorrow.
Today we had an awesome day of fishing. The weather was nice. We scratched at giant yellowfin in the morning and they got with the program in the afternoon. The rig of choice was a 30 - 50 size reel with a 100# fluorocarbon top shot. When the dust settled at the end of the day we had 8 over 200 and six others between 161 and 194 resting peacefully in 30 degree sea water.
Things look good as the fish are scattered out just the way we like to see them. We are moving up tonight with regrets that our allotted time down here has run out. We will be looking for some offshore action as we work our way closer to home.
Herb Jensen made the trip all the way from Alaska and bested this 225# bruiser. The second photo is the whole Alaska contingent of new Royal Star regulars.
While I usually only write a succinct report, today was special and deserves a little bit more. There is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt posted in the wheelhouse in a conspicuous place where it is a daily reminder. "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms; the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high-achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
With very little tuna being caught so far this fall we went prospecting, looking for tuna in places that have not been scoured yet. Stretching the boundaries and pushing the envelope. Today it paid off, and all of us aboard Royal Star enjoyed " the triumph of high-achievement." We found some tuna in adverse weather conditions, and they were big ones. We ended our day with four over two hundred pounds and 11 others from 90 - 190. We had some epic battles ending in defeat mostly due to the weather, and some great victories. Either way, we are here and we are doing.
Jonny Harrington, on his first trip on Royal Star hooked the first fish soon followed by Ryan Long. Jonny's fish chewed off, Ryan landed a 152 # Yellowfin tuna. Not to be outdone, Bruce Logan hooked the next one and landed the first "cow" in the lower banks area of the fall of 2011 a 208.5# model. Jonny Harrington with his always positive attitude, hooked the next one and thirty-five minutes later there were two cows onboard. Charter master Brian Zimmerman and Justin Ofreneo were the other two anglers landing cows today.
With improving weather and the fish located, we are all lined up for another day of epic battles. We shall see if we can reap more of the fruits of our labor.
It has come to my attention that there have been a few cancellations for our fall 10 - 12 day trips. If you are one of the guys who had to cancel, I'm bummed for you because conditions down here look very very good. If you have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for the big fish to show before booking your Royal Star adventure, now is the time while there are still a few spots available. From being in the office last week, I know there are some spots available on the "Let's Talk Hook-Up" 12 day after Thanksgiving. Imagine all of the time down here, an extra two days, on a 12 day trip. Whether that trip fits your schedule or not, give Tracy a call in the office and check on availability because the big fish are here and they are biting.
Honors today go to Royal Star regular Bruce Logan as he poses with the first 200 pounder of the day.
Today we had a very good day. We caught Yellowtail in the morning and enjoyed a wide open dorado bite in the afternoon. With where we are in the trip, we will be prospecting for tuna in the morning.
We enjoyed another day of good action on 15 - 22 # Yellowtail with a few 22 - 26 # Bluefin mixed in. School size Yellowfin and a smattering of Dorado rounded out our catch today. After two days of catching and good numbers of fish on board, our anglers are in that great place where they can marvel at the sheer amount of life around the boat. Blue whales, green sea turtles and marlin feeding near the boat add to the experience that is long range fishing.
Rhanny Hufalar is all smiles with his 25# Bluefin Tuna.
With beautiful weather all the way down we enjoyed a nice ride to the first of our fishing destinations. We got off to a good start with steady action on a variety of species. Bluefin tuna, Yellowfin tuna, Dorado and Yellowtail all found their way over the rail and into the RSW tank. We will be close to the same area in the morning.
Capt. Sims’ and crew departed on schedule amidst a flurry of activity and preparation. It is difficult to believe that one or two hours on a voyage of ten days or longer can make a difference. I assure everyone it can, especially on day one. So that organizational triumph of turning the boat around in rapid order can, and does, make a difference. Plus, we enjoy the challenge. Every turn around is a form of “team building” for our crew. The faster we get the boat in proper order, the better it reflects on our experience and ability. And, anglers are more than ready to get on board and go after being tantalized by the sight of the prior trip unloading. Everyone – anglers, Captain and crew, and even Royal Star herself are like a race horse in the starting gates on departure days. When it is time to go there’s nothing to be gained by loafing around.
So the group set forth loaded and ready by 10:45 steaming south for an immediate destination unknown. Plenty of variables, information pouring in over the wire, and gut instinct will direct Captain Sims’ initial move that will open the ball and set the tone for the voyage; or not. Regardless look for Brian’s reports to commence tomorrow as the fishing portion of the voyage is set to begin. Have a great week!
A flat calm passage north is a lavish brand of fortune that elicits the best in character. No challenge, no struggle, no tolerance of the element's derision allows anglers to focus on the all the fine points, all the favor, and all the reasons why to continue the long range experience next year and beyond. To be certain, when anglers do repeat a ten day voyage in this time frame or any other, it will be different. The contrast in results from year to year is nothing short of astonishing.
Just take into account the difference between this voyage and the prior year's results. Last year a monumental catch of 60 - 120 pound yellowfin tuna from Alijos Rocks was the foundation supplemented by wahoo, dorado, and the usual cadre of ridge variety. This year featured the full ridge bounty but almost no consequential yellowfin tuna; certainly no significant quantity of yellowfin tuna; not even enough to spread among the group on board.
But, last year, and every other of the twenty four years I have fished the ridge in Autumn, I have never seen a significant catch of Bluefin tuna made in these waters. Where did they come from? Why are they here in force this season? Will we ever see this phenomena again? The only answer I can provide to the last question is not if you don't venture a trip. Simple as that answer is it is the truth.
One thing everyone can count on is that one year to the next will be as different, and new, as you can imagine. The dynamics of this ocean are rife with mystery and pregnant with surprise. Such is the beauty and attraction of offshore fishing. The unlimited potential is demonstrated in one way or another every day one sallies forth.
In closing for this voyage my first thought calls attention to the fine catch all will enjoy upon return including a wealth of premium dorado, yellowtail, and bluefin tuna, as well as a sprinkling of wahoo and larger class yellowfin tuna. All unloaded in exceptional, fresh condition from Chief Sean Bickel's tireless attention to the "RSW" refrigeration system, these fantastic quality specimens will grace many a dinner table in upcoming months as an extension of our angler's efforts at the rail and our pride.
Finally I want to extend my most sincere gratitude to Shimano, and my earned respect for their unrivaled line of new products. As an example of professionalism and dedication to the long range fishery any of the Shimano voyages on Royal Star are a cut so far beyond anything I have experienced I continue to be blown away. If any of you are considering a 2012 long range voyage and would appreciate the benefit of test driving all of Shimano's distinct, premium quality line of tackle check out our on line schedule listing Shimano sponsored voyages, or our soon to come printed brochure. Also all of our thanks to Shimano Master Robbie Gant for his immense efforts to keep every piece of Shimano equipment rigged and ready for use throughout the voyage. As a representative of Shimano, and an individual to share the rail with, we could not be in better company.
Now it is time for Captain Brian "Gerbie" Sims to take command departing tomorrow following a quick, efficient turn of Royal Star. Pitch off the catch, clean her up, splash a little of that sickeningly cheap fuel, grab some bait, and the boys will be on their way ready to again charge the southern waters in search of another fine catch. Perhaps this will be the first voyage to find those elusive, big offshore yellowfin, perhaps not; either way they will have a good time. With Captain Sims's expertise and glib personality backed by the finest crew in the long range fleet by a wide margin the setting is ripe for reward. Godspeed boys, and good luck for all.
Overall our final day of working north amounted to little more than a scenic tour. Though we tried numerous zones over thirty miles of coast zero current plagued us at every turn. As a result even the kelp bass effort was a struggle at best. We threw everything we had at them, wax wings, plastics, live bait, you name it, and only one or two bass jumped on here and there before we were forced to move on.
That said the day was far from a bust. Foremost was flat calm conditions that always make for a pleasant time. Second was the scenic exposure somewhat lacking during this voyage as the majority of our adventures were had beyond sight of land. Today made up for the deficit as our passage was rarely more than a half mile from the rugged Baja landscape. There is some grounding component to the near sight of land that intrigues and pacifies. The constantly unfolding seascape, complimented by seemingly endless beach dunes, tranquil pueblos, and wind swept islands festooned with life, urges interest and appreciation as slumbered receptors are engaged and gratified.
As many times over the past twenty five years that I have run this stretch I still embrace the chance every time it arises. Foremost of course is the fishing, but even when the catching falls flat the scenery still captures interest and perhaps even sparks a slight longing in some. To see that the world can be, still is, that simple provides at least some perspective to most observant individuals. Otherwise it is just a bunch of sand, rocks, and sea life there to be plundered.
As I mentioned our attempts to plunder were sadly unsatisfactory - although our intentions were to release the vast majority of the spoils anyway. Through struggle and strain however we barely managed to scrape enough for sustenance promising to shore up Chef Drew Rivera's final day lunch menu with the highly touted reward. One thing I can say is that the colossal buildup obviously whetted appetites as everyone seriously invested in the effort engaging every trick in the book with the best Shimano gear available.
Of course I was slave driving to some extent but to see every angler on deck wielding a Shimano Curado, Trinidad, Talica, Stella, Thunnus, and/or Sustain, all on different models of Terez rods, was a real testament to their commitment to the overstated goal. Weeding through hoards of barracuda, sweating in the hot sun, on the brink of collapse from pure exhaustion, to the final moments this group of warriors gave it all they were worth. I'm joking of course; we had a good time with plenty of laughs enjoying the day as we chewed up the miles passing through Eden. It was a day of palpable connection to elements. The beauty was so thick one could see, hear, feel, and taste it. The by-product was the fishing.
Flat calm seas are forecast for the ride north that will undoubtedly be appreciated accordingly. Photo today features the Shimano bass gear queued up and ready to go. Every rig in this shot was used in one way or another shortly thereafter. What a treat for these anglers. Look for tomorrow's final trip report.
It was back to pot luck today with our specific focus on any available tuna. That idea was easier expressed that executed however as a lack of conditions and overly eager yellowtail made us earn every tuna that came on board through sheer perseverance. Time at the rail, and plenty of catch and releasing yellowtail, was the winning strategy, though other than a sole twenty five pound bluefin the reward of smaller, ten to fifteen pound yellowfin tuna was only marginally satisfying.
Such was the day however as somewhat raunchy sea conditions, an already worthy load of fish in the RSW tanks, and an exhausted set of options in the lower zone dictated that we make the most of what we had to work with. And in proper perspective things could be a lot worse. The day any of us advance more than a good natured gripe about a full day of catching yellowtail, small tuna, and ton of other variety "shakers" is the day to re evaluate our passion for fishing.
Shimano man Robbie Gant provided a perfect example of what advantage a day of fishing opportunity such as today represents. As an angler who spends plenty of time in local, Southern California waters Robbie was the proverbial kid in the candy store throughout the day tossing what seemed like half the Shimano tackle line of Wax Wings and various surface chuggers for tons of action. He never slowed down or wound down right to the final stop where we were struggling to scratch smaller yellowfin amidst overbearing skippies of both stripes.
Fishing for the sheer joy of it is a concept I have advanced on plenty of occasions. Rest assured on any given long range voyage the ability to adapt and make the most of whatever opportunity that comes along will serve you well. Whether it be serious as a hardcore competition or simply for the sake of a few laughs the catharsis of fishing is in the act.
So the closing note on the lower end lacked luster but definitely did little to affect the good spirits and satisfaction arising from a good catch already on board. Though the weather was sloppy it was a day passed in relative leisure as zero pressure accompanied the fishing effort. Hunkered down on the anchor most of the day almost magically upon departure the wind abated, seas diminished, and we cruised up the line less any of the dark expectations fomented earlier by the unfavorable sea state. It was a nice ride that got better and better as the evening progresses.
Tomorrow will be spent somewhere up the road focusing on perhaps a handful or two of hog yellowtail and definitely a few handfuls of tasty kelp bass. Due to the amazing talents of Chef Drew Rivera the final day bass lunch has almost become a tradition. Without a doubt anyone who has enjoyed the fruits of Drew's efforts readily supports the objective. Needless to say with the incredible cache of Shimano gear on board we are backed by the best equipment imaginable to execute our strategy. Look for tomorrow's report with the details.
It has now come to that time of the season when plying the southern zones for at least a day or two is a near obligatory commitment on a ten or eleven day voyage; that is if one wishes to make catch on better size tuna. Needless to say we fall into that category, always. In fine working conditions and high spirits we began our day plying familiar haunts in search of a beginning to the 2011 "local banks" season. Even a hint in the early phase would provide fuel for optimistic speculation. However it was not meant to be.
We were handed a poignant disappointment relatively early that spoke volumes of the overall potential in the zone we were working. In short we found the most perfect sign one could ever imagine in the form of a huge area of tightly bunched, easy going dolphins that welcomed our attempts to search and fish among them. In perfect weather, perfect water conditions, and the perfect zone for this time of year we caught zero - almost no indication of tuna, and no inclination to cooperate from what few we did see. Whether the spot of dolphins we worked were recently sterilized of tuna by the industrial purse seine fleet, or there are simply no fish in this zone yet for them to buddy up with, the result for us was the same; my gut speaks to the latter - they have yet to arrive.
On the positive side the lack of sign made a snap decision to evacuate easy to follow without a second thought. If we were to salvage the day it was time to go, with haste. Fast forward a few hours and a new ocean greeted us with miles of life. It was a scenario we are well familiar with from many times past. And though we already had a good start on our dorado quota in the premium "RSW" tanks we could not pass these by.
"Ball slappers" is a classification assigned to twenty to thirty pound dorado with good reason. In our colorful system of descriptions out here there are basically three categories of dorado: "knee slappers", "ball slappers", and "chin slappers"; with "chin slappers" being the most coveted. The term originated from many occasions when crew men, or even unsuspecting anglers, are dealt a authoritative blow below the belt from a wildly out of control dorado flapping on deck. Even the best of crewmembers, which mine most certainly are, are hard pressed to prevent the inevitable during heavy dorado action. The big, flapping incarnations of the devil are absolutely impossible to get a hold of all of the time. Of course the comedy during these scenarios is rich as can be, especially when someone takes a shot that drops them to their knees. No sympathy here, and all in good humor; ball slappers are such labeled for good reason. A couple more individuals were enlightened to this fact today.
The afternoon was graced with excellent fishing for straight "ball slappers", every one of which was worthy of an appreciative moment. Between the aerial acrobatics and muscle straining effort required to land this larger class fish it made for a great, day salvaging reward. Throw in a few marlin, huge amounts of life, great working weather, and tremendous scenery and the day closed on a high note; no tuna but something, and that something was worthy in every respect. We were glad for it.
Photo of the day features long time Royal Star veteran Paul Kelleher with a stock version of dorado grade encountered. Tomorrow will be dedicated to a final pursuit of tuna before the return northerly trek begins.
Aside from a special little morning treat that upended our shot at bluefin the day ended strong in the success column with signature ridge variety. Bluefin tuna, ridiculous yellowtail action, and even more ridiculous late afternoon dorado catching completed the second full day of classic "yankin' and crankin" that left anglers spent, elated, and ready to celebrate; no question they earned it.
Beautiful weather kept mercifully cool by blanketing sea fog and low clouds gave way late transforming our myopic universe into a stunning, fiery panorama giving credence to old sailors jargon. "Red sky at night, sailors delight" well defined the setting of ages as revelers on deck heeded the call to notice and pay homage. From free flowing spirits and boisterous camaraderie to peaceful moments of individual profundity the crimson sun was bid farewell with reverence as any and all could not miss the scope of good fortune encompassing this space in time.
And amidst all this soul searching and/or simpler enjoyment the dorado we clobbered, and thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of their brethren continued jumping, continued breezing, continued to reveal themselves for miles and miles as we steamed south for the land of promise tomorrow. There are those times when the sheer volume of fish in this ocean is almost impossible to believe. Difficult to imagine as it was our final stop, that based on appearances could have been nothing other than the mother lode, was really only the tip of the iceberg. After leaving that stop sated in every way, shape, and form we passed through numerous areas perhaps a square quarter mile in dimension where the water was turned pure iridescent blue by legions of dorado swimming shoulder to shoulder; and every one of them was hungry, starving for a chance to join us on board.
Needless to say it takes monumental self control in these instances that call to the primal instinct. When opportunity of this degree knocks it is difficult to ignore. But, being respectful of the obvious we motored through casting hookless wax wings and surface poppers that ultimately provided a show worth the price of admission alone. In fact, we closed the final stop with fifteen or twenty minutes of such antics that marshaled a majority of spectators on the bridge whom could not help but express their enthusiasm in wild exclamations, whoops, and cheers. Some of the hookless surface popper retrieves in particular were off the scale with twenty or thirty pissed off dorado being driven to pure insanity by the skipping, unstoppable plugs.
For me the best visual by far occurred in several instances when one of the myriads of unhinged, lit up dorado couldn't stand it any longer and would come flying out of the water amongst it's fellows with the plug clenched sideways like a dog bone in it's jaws. Of course this would drive the others equally mad setting up a chain reaction of white water and electric blue mayhem as those denied struggled with the greedy, errant champion to settle the score. In the world of fishing there is really no way to quantify spectacles of such incredulity. To be believed it has to be seen. Less a frame of reference it is beyond one's ability to visualize. In other words it is time to sign up for a long range voyage. It's a fisherman's Disneyland. There is nothing that compares.
Amongst all the frenzied dorado action naturally a camera was the farthest thing from my mind. Fortunately it was not for Inside Sport Fishing camera man/producer Shea Mc Intee who should have a compilation in the category of all time. That is for another day however. Today first time Royal Star angler Cherie Swain does the honors with her morning twenty two pound bluefin tuna landed amidst the yellowtail fury. Tomorrow it is offshore tuna or bust. We are ready.
Following today's action packed ridge experience we are compelled to broaden the variety list to include bluefin tuna. Who would have expected steady fishing for twenty five pound bluefin on the ridge at this time of the year? Combined with a fat and sassy school of 18 - 25# eager yellowtail the morning pot luck action was dynamic, rich, and incredibly rewarding. As one can imagine this patient group of anglers, the majority of whom sweated out the first two days less any catching satisfaction, kicked into high gear steadily settling the score putting yellowtail and bluefin tuna aboard.
So completes another chapter for the long range archives that is unlimited in the potential for surprise. There are no two voyages alike. Certainly there can be detailed similarities, but from experience one learns that this ocean is never content to remain the same or dormant. I've used the quote from one of my cherished mentors Herb Gale before. He was fond of a saying passed to him from an old fishing icon who regularly said "every day I am out here I am reminded of how much I don't know." I'd say today's fifty nice bluefin on Uncle Sam Bank, in the middle of October, provide a pretty solid example of this notion.
Needless to say a morning of non-stop action that continued into mid afternoon did wonders to restore spirits and remind all of the joy of fishing and catching. For about five hours there was no letting up as nearly every bait or jig cast resulted in something on the end of the line. Between the caliber of fishing and minimal sorting through smaller, release size undesirables it was a game changer in all respects. Now we are positioned to settle in and again narrow our focus. But before we go screaming off in search of glory we intend to take another swing at these bluefin. Though the likelihood of it happening may be akin to lightning striking the same place twice there are many old fables to support this strategy.
Photo today features long range and Royal Star veteran Eunice Chisholm who was on fire throughout the morning on the twenty five pound class Bluefin. Weeding through the yellowtail landing bluefin one after another she set the pace for quite awhile. Here is Eunice with Chief Engineer Sean Bickel and an average size bluefin landed today.
No sign of our tormentors today but little sign of fish either; one might think they go hand in hand; and one would be correct. Often the opportunistic denizens trail schools and groups of tuna along waiting for chance or Providence to favor their patience. It works for them. But today the omnipresent sharks were the least of our concern as scant sign of the bigger tuna accompanied an almost one hundred eighty degree change in conditions. A freshened breeze and building sea state was assisted by a moderate current driving opposite prevailing sea conditions. Although far from rugged, or even uncomfortable, it was a considerable deviation from yesterday's tranquility.
In all the outside has been plagued for some time by a simple lack of fish that has translated into paltry results for just about everyone visiting the desolate outcrop over the past two months. It appears that one or two small groups of bigger tuna are skulking around, as well as a few small clutches of wahoo, but no significant quantity of either species has filled in. So we wait, and continue to poke and prod, while at least providing anglers the shot at larger yellowfin they came for. In this respect we accomplished our initial goal; though admittedly I am far from elated with our results; slightly placated would probably best describe my present perspective.
One thing certain is that the sight of even a few of these larger class yellowfin only serves to create a strong yearning for more. And from long experience I know I am among the majority in this sentiment. Before we stretch our legs in pursuit of glory however it is time to settle in to the task of putting some fish aboard. To meet this rapidly becoming urgent objective we push east in search of the hungry masses to rejuvenate spirits and quench the hunter's appetite.
The run across promises some exercise for those standing but rates low overall in the category of offshore excitement. Fifteen knots of breeze with two to three foot seas is augmented by an occasional fair sized, long interval northwest roller that stacks up with the chop to remind us that we are far offshore playing a small role in a much grander production. As we tack east conditions are forecast to improve setting us in fine shape tomorrow when our fishing begins anew. There's a nice little jingle to end on. Needless to say we are ready to get this program in motion.
Photo of the day features Royal Star veteran Lohn Storms who ended his day at Alijos in fine style with this seventy five pound yellowfin that he immediately backed up with a fat, forty pound class wahoo on his next cast.
I'll label it decent beginning in line with expectations but for one glitch. Again the miserable, unjust reality of hungry sharks consumed the elation of victory for a majority of anglers setting the hook on the tuna we came for. No matter what the circumstance it is a bitter pill to swallow; in particular when the opportunities are scarce and at a premium. Such is fishing; one must come prepared for the inevitable fact that a wealth of obstacles are frequently arranged to challenge our savvy. It is the way of things out here.
The positive side of the late afternoon was the ultimate capture of a few whole specimens that weighed in the 80 - 110 pound class. Whether it was a small hoard of sharks that filled up on our early offerings, our revised approach favoring larger gear size, a few heroic anglers pulling for all they were worth, or all of the above a few victories were snatched from the jaws of defeat to inject a necessary note of enthusiasm to notably affected morale. Between the final few, a couple of handfuls of twenty to forty pound yellowfin, and a half dozen wahoo the day ended with reason for optimism.
On an even more positive fishing note some of the wahoo strikes on the casted wax wings and live baits were material of legends today. Forty to sixty pound class "skinnies" skyrocketed to heights of fifteen or twenty feet on several occasions demonstrating their penchant for flight when chasing live baits and lining up on surface presented lures. It made for a couple of heart stopping moments as the airborne missiles struck their targets and awestruck anglers switched from a stance of jaw gaping amazement to furious winding to take up the huge amounts of instantly created slack.
Some were successful and some were not, but the show alone was well worth. The memory of looking up at a fifty pound wahoo flying through the air clasping your lure in it's jaws is indelible. I speak from personal experience. I vividly remember certain wahoo bites on the surface iron going back twenty years and more. The sight of those big, striped projectiles twenty feet airborne with your jig visibly attached is a brand of marvel only a true fisherman can adore. Shimano man Robbie Gant got his shot today. I doubt he'll forget the perfect image of a fat skinny clenching his wax wing in flight then disappearing behind a stripe of bubbles extending a glistening twenty or thirty feet into the crystal blue deeps. I know I won't.
Photo today features long time Royal Star veteran Don Ballanti who following his tagging voyage to the Revillas last February was only too happy to "tag" this 110# yellowfin with a Royal Star #21. Needless to say it will be enjoyed as fine table fare upon our return.
A stress free, relaxing day of travel in calm seas began the voyage on a ideal note allowing all preparations to be made in comfort at whatever pace anglers chose to proceed. Time at hand led to a wealth of nothing - nothing urgent, nothing that couldn't wait, and nothing to do but stop the world and settle into the ship board travel routine. Of course the fishing tomorrow and beyond will change all that; a day or two of inactivity is enough anyway, but one can't help but appreciate the delicious opportunity to simply stop and unplug at least once in a while.
Plenty of reading and good conversation passed the easy time while the battery of Shimano equipment mentioned yesterday was assembled and prepared for action. It makes for an impressive visual that I'm certain will be even more so when put into action. Between the equipment our anglers brought along and the gear provided by Shimano we are outfitted for a voyage of titanic proportions - if the fish bite. And if they don't - we'll look better than anyone out here trying.
Today's photo features one of three or four of the Shimano line up's that anglers on this voyage are free to use at any time. This is "Talica/Trinidad Row" that I suspect will be put to good use throughout the trip. Just looking at this cache of gear makes me want to grab one and fish. In fact as I write I am beginning to feel that familiar twinge of anxiety before fishing commences. So much for the "stress free relaxation"; only six hours to go.
I have to admit that time somewhat got away from me during our three day shut down that resulted in a significant number of projects completed. In preparation for the upcoming months of operation in elevated water temperatures a few of our smaller tasks grew in scope as we discovered, and resolved, a variety of pending grief. With time to throw ourselves into the challenge everything was completed and buttoned up positioning Royal Star for success in the months to come.
Now we are back to fishing with a mid morning departure on our annual Shimano sponsored ten day voyage featuring the most astounding array of provided equipment I have ever seen. There is so much top of the line gear for anglers to choose from that everyone on board easily could have left the majority percentage of their own outfits behind. Headed up by outstanding Shimano product manager Robbie Gant this voyage is an incredible example of Shimano's commitment to an unmatched level of professionalism. Of all the years I have participated in this fishery I have never seen anything to compare. I am fired up beyond words to put this massive arsenal to work.
Everything from Talica's and Trinidad's to Stella's, Curado's, and Thunnus' are perfectly matched with Terez and Trevala series rods rigged and ready on the back deck for anglers to choose and use; there are even a few top secret prototypes for anglers to abuse. As Robbie said in the morning introduction "we brought these rigs to conduct rugged field tests, they are here to be subjected to the most extreme conditions available, don't go easy on them". I hope we don't
Pushing south in zero wind and a 4 - 6 foot northwest swell we calculate and consider a variety of options to commence the fishing portion of this voyage. At least one full day of travel is promised in every option we are weighing so tomorrow will be dedicated to rigging and preparing for all our fishing to come. Meanwhile daily reports and photos will continue as we are back at it through the end of the year and beyond. Here we go.
A sole offshore yellowfin spared us the malodorous shame of a final day skunk. It was a small consolation that if nothing else supplied a humorous tidbit to an obviously lack luster fishing conclusion. But in all honesty it had no real effect on morale. The weather was up, our catch was already in the hatch, and the unanimous sentiment was in favor of getting the hell out while the getting was still relatively good. So we did.
Leaving little more than a fishless morning behind we flew the coop mid morning straight lining for a sweet island refuge. When the fishing falls short we rely heavily on our closers to end the voyage on a strong, memorable note. In the flat calm of a lake like anchorage I must say that the dream team of Chef's Drew Rivera and Jeffery Grant buttressed our best efforts with a signature showing. Prime rib is just prime rib - until one has enjoyed it prepared by either Jeff or Drew. Combined with a variety selection of fine California reds, and the instant gratification of a slightly rolly ride becoming grease calm, the closing atmosphere was relaxed and festive as anglers reveled in the moment, and memories past. In light of the circumstances I could not have crafted a more gratifying final evening.
With a catch perhaps slightly lacking in the variety category we still nailed the best of what was available during this round. Between the caliber and quantity of coastal yellowtail action, a few handfuls of offshore tuna, beautiful weather supplied by Mother Earth and the island lee's, and the topper of a real shot at trophy, Guadalupe yellowfin tuna our satisfaction with the results is well earned. For a six day voyage at this time of year we head in as winners in every respect.
Photo of the day features long time Royal Star veteran Gary Bobay in action a few days back. On a closing note our gratitude to charter master Larry Brown who holds the title of the most attentive, colorful group leader/coordinator we share our schedule with. It is a sincere pleasure to fish with an individual as passionate about fishing, and our fishery, as Larry is. Obviously near and dear to his heart Larry's efforts to advance the long range opportunity to anglers novice and veteran are sincere, and do not go un-noticed.
We will be tying up Royal Star through next Wednesday to pay attention to a few mechanical and cosmetic odds and ends before commencing our full fall schedule of ten through twelve day voyages. While tending to the apple of our eye I will continue to send at least a few daily updates and definitely a handful of photos from voyages past. Enjoy the upcoming weekend and look for more dialogue to come.
There was a brilliance of color today; a distinct radiance of light and contrast that made every image scream in colors rich, crisp, and real. And, being Guadalupe, everything was huge; the scale of perspective in this Jurassic coliseum of giants is unchallenged. The vision is not that of a sole romantic idealist either - from whatever realm of thought one navigates the stark proportions of this island, the magnitude of thought invoking natural beauty, strikes a primal chord - in varying degrees of course.
This morning though, wow! It was absolutely impossible to not take at least a moment of pause in pure appreciation of the surroundings; such a call could not be ignored. The crisp, richness of colors combined with another heaven sent spell of flat calm was magic. The stage was set; the gauntlet was paved in gold; the opportunity at trophy yellowfin we set in motion from the beginning of the voyage would be graced with the most perfect conditions imaginable. The ocean's little gifts stand in such proportion out here. With a penchant for sowing challenge the vast majority of the time the favorable offerings are to be snapped up, coveted, and savored. So many analogies supporting this idea come to mind I could probably spend several hours penning serious and humorous versions. I'll save them for when the time comes.
And the fishing was thankfully at least up to expectations. Mind you in this case our expectations were consistent with the pattern out here over the past month or so. We didn't have visions of grandeur or illusions about the potential. We were well prepared for a scratch scenario where every single opportunity, if there was to be any, was made good on. Between the unsavory behemoth local hooligans, shifty, inconsistent conditions, and an overall lacking significant quantity of fish, nothing has come easy in the way of fishing really since late July.
By the noon hour it appeared that we were well on track to suffer the fate of most others during the past week as scant sign at best, despite good conditions, was the result of our dogged searching. Never being one deterred by adversity however the anchor was more akin to a yo-yo as spot after spot was exhausted in fruitless efforts. By 1330 hrs. one single tuna was the result of our trials. But, as the methodical check off process progressed into the afternoon we finally struck upon what we favored in the way of conditions. It was immediately obvious. And, just like the book says it should be, there they were. As we came loaded for bear with plenty to share we were extremely generous broadcasting the bounty of our offerings far and wide. The response, especially pronounced in the continuing flat calm, was incredibly convincing.
Sixty to one hundred pound yellowfin tuna erupted in furious commotions ripping the tranquility from the calm spell. It was as if an incoming round of cannon balls struck as everywhere anglers focused one, two, or three violent eruptions broke the surface in cascades of flying spray and an unmistakable violence of sound. It was game on - almost. For certain the results did not nearly match the incredible show that was practically worth the price of admission alone. Regardless we managed to scratch out ten of the dandies before they settled into the familiar behavior of continuing to cream countless fleeing baits in mouth watering explosions maddeningly close to the boat, but refusing to fall victim to our choicest offerings.
So, following a couple of hours of steady scratching keeping one or two fish on the line, we passed the remainder of the day being taunted and tantalized focusing our best fishing techniques for only few more bites. And, speaking of a few bites, almost unbelievably we spent a full four hours affixed to the bottom before one of our many nemesis' finally arrived to mete out the usual misery on only one of our hooked tuna - another miracle gift to add to the growing list during this fantastic voyage.
All things taken into consideration we depart for our final day offshore fully satisfied with our goals met thus far. We have enjoyed fortune enough to know better than to ask for more. If it comes our way however we will be happy to accommodate the opportunity. On the weather front it appears that we may have finally reached the end of our good fortune. Tomorrow promises to be a little sloppy as we finish up on the offshore grounds. We'll see how it factors into our overall plan. Needless to say with a good catch already in the hatch our effort tomorrow will be affected by the grade of the sea state. There are those times when we take the opportunity to heed the obvious call.
Photo of the day features Royal Star veteran Bob Remeika and Blake with Bob's seventy pound Guadalupe prize. Take in the whole picture and it is easy to understand why the mystique of this island calls.
Quite the array of conditions today as dawn broke to reveal an arriving weather change. Far from extreme and/or cause for concern it did offer the promise of a dramatic shift from our heavenly flat calm that needless to say is very easy to get used to. Regardless we set to fulfilling the objective again and didn't take long to accomplish our production goals. By far the highlight of the morning occurred during a long drift when a marauding school of 20 - 25# yellows pushed a bait ball right into our drift track. Watching the whole set up that began with the typical precursor birds obviously tracking in our direction, it was one of those rare occasions of sweet suspense when the outcome of the fish erupting on us was inevitable; all we had to do was sit and wait for it to happen.
The best part about it was the complete lack of anxious anticipation as we were already loaded up on yellows; we were far more interested in enjoying the show than catching the mind boggling quantity of yellowtail plowing up the surface around us for at least a quarter mile in every direction. Again classic long range fishing. Twenty to twenty five pound yellows in an abundance believable only to the eye amidst a setting frozen in time - it could have been a hundred years ago and would probably have appeared the same. I never cease to be amazed by this fishery. There is nothing on the planet that compares.
So as we enjoyed another personal "Blue Planet" feature we found ourselves in the unique position of gaining a little extra time to adlib around the coast before heading west for the ultimate showdown. The enthusiasm for a shot at some real deal kelp bass fishing was prevalent enough among these anglers to warrant a classic butted up to the weeds anchor job that produced a scenic spectacle, and good lunker calico action, that was as memorable to many anglers as the yellowtail fishing itself. It was a perfect interlude before battening down the hatches and heading for the outside.
To our delight however the coming bumpy weather decreased rather than increased; the wind diminished, and by evening was close enough to calm to call it that; even I was surprised by how serene conditions became. I have to say there is nothing quite like bracing for an unpleasant ride, preparing for the worst, then having the ocean go calm instead. We'll take it; lord knows there have been plenty of times when the opposite occurred.
Tomorrow promises the big show down as "The Crucible" beckons with its vast potential for triumph and tears. We are prepared to serve up an irresistible banquet if the tuna are willing - and I reckon if the sharks are willing too. But, with a little good favor, we'll dodge the beasts and wind up with a winning hand. Photos today feature long range veterans Nona and Norin Grancell with crewman Blake Wasano and Nona's chunky Calico Bass, and Royal Star veteran Andrew Tang pulling on a mid morning yellow at home amidst the fray.
One would have to use a microscope to find anything wrong with this day of fishing. Overall, for caliber of action, grade of fish, weather, climate, and atmosphere on deck - every detail that forms the picture, I can't extract a flaw. And as most of you reading this daily narrative have likely noticed my habit of nitpicking, this was a rare day of perfection. My tireless observation and attention to detail kept receiving these steady boosts as 20 - 25# yellowtail came over the rail at the perfect pace and this group of incredibly collected anglers enjoyed and appreciated every aspect of the opportunity. Each moment easily flowed into the next and ultimately diffused even my unconquerable drive to grind it out and produce.
Between the tranquility of the ocean calm, and majesty of surroundings burgeoning with vibrant spectacles so live and real, the scenic component of the day, especially the morning, was profound to the point of producing sensory overload. Becoming a central figure in an episode of "Blue Planet" while pulling on an angry yellowtail in concert with ten or fifteen fellow anglers struggling to stay on top of their opponents has a way of requiring full attention to the task at hand. However attention to incredible events occurring in such amazing contrast can not be fully diverted. In the case of this morning the spectacles were so grand they might as well have jumped up and slapped us across the face - they demanded recognition.
In particular, the Pacific White Sided Dolphins were so confidently brazen in their pursuit of fleeing sardines they would charge the hull stopping within a few feet on numerous occasions. I could easily distinguish the fine, smiling lines of their countenance as they plowed through the corner shoulder to shoulder crunching their prey. Throw in a few hundred of their cohorts, a few hundred more common dolphins, naturally a few hundred dogs, and even a handful of blue whales and one may get a hint of the panorama. Between the cacophony of sounds and amazing sights it had potential to do wonders for the soul.
In the end, as we kicked the anchor over following a signature green flash sunset reverie, all settled into a heavenly flat calm mode, relished the comfort, and melted into their stateroom havens sore and satisfied. It was a fitting note to end the day. Photo of the morning features Royal Star angler Russell Wilson savoring the moment with a wealth of life in the background. It's a fine world we find ourselves in. Subtract cell phones, televisions, computers, video games, social media, and perpetual depressing news of current events and it actually feels like it. Such is the beauty of long range fishing - catharsis in so many ways.
This was one of those days when the Magellan calling was answered with a resounding thud. As it turned out we should have stuck with our morning starting point where we were catching a few fish; should've, could've, would've; that temptation over the horizon was just too much. Not that it was an extreme tragedy, or world altering event, but any good Captain can't help but review and reflect when the plan goes awry. One thing we did find was a wealth of perfect water that defied reason with it's dearth of life. Hours passed by without a kelp sighting, jig strike, or bird to turn on. And when we did finally spot the very occasional weed the majority signs of life were dreaded swarms of micro yellowtail that wreaked havoc in their suicidal zeal to climb on board. Admittedly they do very little to ignite the spark we pursue. Whenever they show we demonstrate an equal zeal to evacuate with haste.
Before I get too carried away highlighting the negatives though the reality of one slow day among five to fish is simply that. We got off to a sluggish beginning on the fishing end but enjoyed a fine day on the water in the process. Good weather, mild seas, the crisp offshore climate, and a depth of blue in the ocean calling to within made for an easy day on the water laden for vacationers with guilt free languor. More than a few naps were indulged in as the afternoon warmth and a signature Chef Drew Rivera feast combined to serenade, or club, anglers into unconsciousness.
Day's end found us sliding downwind focusing on better fishing to come. With plans to fish the coast for at least a day we're looking to jump in the saddle and get this party started. There are presently eighteen lonely tuna and a few dorado longing for company down below.
Again, though this round was a little leaner on the trophy class yellowfin from Guadalupe, the catch unloaded stood in broad contrast with premium 70 - 90# yellowfin atop brimming totes of fat yellowtail and a few offshore tuna on their way to Fisherman's Processing. This being the final "shorter" voyage of the 2011 season I couldn't help but reflect upon the successful procession of six and seven day runs since mid July that have all featured a majority percentage of fishing time, excellent variety catches, and the coveted opportunity to target trophy class Guadalupe yellowfin.
Overall there has been a wealth of superb fishing in a lot of places making for one of the better summer/early fall seasons in some time. By adapting our schedule over the past few seasons we managed to align our voyages with any and every opportunity available creating a much broader base of fishing options for Royal Star anglers. And while there has been a ton of good variety fishing above and below we opted for the trophy yellowfin option any and every time it was viable. And our catches demonstrated that it was viable every time; thank the fish gods for that luxury.
On that note we will see if our timing aligns with the Guadalupe yellowfin this voyage as we first head south in pursuit of the quantity and variety categories before pushing west to the promised land. Good working weather is the opening theme that we hope to put to good use. Unlike the previous several voyages we are taking a long shot this time switching into straight search mode. The local offshore area has finally broken down to the point that we feel our objectives are better served by fishing for something new. We'll see if we still feel that way by day's end tomorrow.
So we push south and west taking a swing for the fence satisfied that during this time of the year, in the zones we plan to traverse, anything can happen. Tuna and dorado will be the primary target as we scan for flotsam in the forecast calm seas. Of course daily reports will follow as the annual Larry Brown six, soon to be a seven, day voyage unfolds. For the present all is well on Royal Star. All is well.